Lights, Camera, Letterboxd: How Letterboxd Became The Hottest Movie Platform

Lights, Camera, Letterboxd: How Letterboxd Became The Hottest Movie Platform

Could Letterboxd be for you?



If you've noticed your friends sharing film posters adorned with a logo featuring three interlocking circles in orange, green and blue (a bit like a linear Venn diagram), you've likely encountered Letterboxd. This social platform is a haven for cinephiles and film enthusiasts, offering a treasure trove of film information. Users can effortlessly access synopses, release dates, run times, cast and crew details, user ratings, reviews and more. It's the ultimate destination for anyone who loves diving deep into the world of cinema.



Letterboxd's primary function isn't entirely groundbreaking, as IMDb, a similar platform for cataloging films and television shows, has been around since the 90s after debuting online in 1993 (long before Facebook and MySpace). However, Letterboxd entered this niche market, competing with an already established major player, and managed to enhance the user experience significantly. In less than a decade, it has built a large community of users and surpassed IMDb in popularity.


So how did they do it? 


Launched in 2011 by Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow in New Zealand, Letterboxd set out with a simple yet revolutionary mission: to create a social space for film lovers to track, review and discuss their favorite movies. Inspired by social media and blogging platforms, they crafted a user-friendly interface that promotes engagement and community interaction, moving away from the solitary, one-sided experiences found on other platforms.


As for its name, “Letterboxd” is inspired by the letterboxing technique in film, where a wide-screen movie is fitted within a standard-width screen, creating black bars above and below the image. This nod to film terminology and semantics perfectly encapsulates the platform's dedication to the movie-going experience.


At the heart of Letterboxd is its user-centric design. Unlike IMDb, which focuses mainly on providing comprehensive information about films and industry professionals, Letterboxd places equal emphasis on the user experience. The platform's diary function allows users to log the films they watch in real-time, complete with personalized ratings and reviews. This feature not only serves as a personal record, but also fosters a sense of accountability and engagement within the community.



The diary feature also proves its utmost importance towards the end of the year. Similar to how Spotify does their yearly wrap-up, Letterboxd also releases an in depth stats summary of how your year in film looks like, aptly called “Year in Review.” Providing users with information on their total number of films watched, hours watched, top rated films, most watched and highest rated actors + directors, this can inspire a friendly banter and competition amongst users by incentivizing your activities on the platform.



The social networking elements of Letterboxd also enables users to follow friends and other personalities, discover new films through smart recommendations and curated lists and participate in discussions, creating a vibrant ecosystem of film enthusiasts. From personalized film diary, list creation, in-depth user reviews and ability to share your film log on other social platforms like Facebook, X and Instagram, Letterboxd fills the market gap of catering to the diverse needs and preferences of different users.



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Letterboxd has revolutionized the film review landscape by embracing the art of the witty one-liner. We have bid farewell to lengthy dissertations and verbose analysis; now, users vie to distill their insights into clever quips that leave a lasting impression. These bite-sized reviews, often no lengthier than a tweet, have emerged as the currency of conversation on Letterboxd. Users engage to concoct the cleverest, most memorable lines; each review is a miniature masterpiece crafted to provoke laughter, agreement or even discourse. What distinguishes these reviews is their potential to go viral. In the age of social media, where attention spans are short and scrolling is the norm, a well-crafted one-liner has the power to transcend Letterboxd's confines and spread like wildfire across other social platforms.


Letterboxd's mainstream success owes much to its ability to attract and engage high-profile users, including celebrities who bring their own fan bases and industry influence to the platform. One of the earliest and most prominent advocates is director Rian Johnson, known for films like 2012’s Looper and the successful Knives Out franchise. 


Other confirmed celebrities on the platform includes actress Hari Nef, who portrayed Doctor Barbie in 2023’s Barbie, Rachel Sennott, known for her roles in 2020’s Shiva Baby and 2023’s Bottoms, Dacre Montgomery who plays Billy in Netflix’s Stranger Things and the satirical talk show host Ziwe, famous for her self-titled program, adds another layer of cultural commentary and engagement. 


On the other hand, most celebrities strive to keep their identity anonymous on the platform due to fear of possible backlash over their shared opinions. Amongst the confirmed celebrities who have secret accounts on the platform includes Olivia Rodrigo, Paul Mescal, Rachel Zegler, Margot Robbie and Maya Hawke.



One celebrity who has significantly impacted Letterboxd and is simply unfazed by the public reaction is actress and comedian Ayo Edebiri. Best known for her performances alongside Sennott in Bottoms and her Emmy-winning role in Hulu’s The Bear, Edebiri has become a standout presence on the platform. Her witty—often snarky—reviews and candid insights into cinema have garnered a dedicated following, especially among younger audiences. Edebiri's humorous and often brutal commentaries frequently go viral on social media platforms like X, further amplifying both her and Letterboxd influence.



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Just last year, legendary film director Martin Scorsese, best known for films like the 1990’s Goodfellas, 1976’s Taxi Driver and 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street, joined Letterboxd. Scorsese’s recognition and engagement with Letterboxd solidified its status within the film industry. This confluence of high-profile users and authentic, engaging content has propelled Letterboxd to the forefront of film discussion and analysis, making it an indispensable tool for both casual viewers and industry professionals.


Now while Letterboxd is a fantastic free resource for cinephiles, the platform does offer Pro and Patron subscription tiers. Pro, at USD19 annually, grants cinephiles with personalized stats, watchlist filters, and ad-free browsing. For USD49, Patron subscribers enjoy all Pro perks plus a personalized “Year in Review” and the much-loved ability to swap out film posters.


Changing posters isn't just a perk; it's a passion for film aficionados. It's a chance to infuse their profiles with their own aesthetic flair, selecting posters that resonate on a personal level. Whether opting for visually striking art or meaningful designs, it's a delightful way to make their movie selection uniquely theirs.



Of course, we cannot skip over how Letterboxd film posters are a trend of their own. One such trend that swept through the community was inspired by the 2023 film Priscilla, directed by Sofia Coppola, which took the platform by storm. The Priscilla poster, with its minimalist design and dreamy color palette, captivated audiences and sparked a wave of emulation among Letterboxd users. The trend even extended to custom poster designs, with users crafting their own Priscilla-inspired artwork to personalize their movie collections further.


It's clear that Letterboxd has not only revolutionized how we engage with movies but also fostered a vibrant community of cinephiles. From its inception, it has been more than just a database of films; it's a sanctuary for film enthusiasts to connect, discover and share their love for cinema. Whether you're a casual viewer or a seasoned cineaste, Letterboxd offers something for everyone, making it an indispensable tool in today's film landscape.


So whether you're a seasoned cinephile or just dipping your toes into the world of movies, Letterboxd welcomes you to join the conversation, share your thoughts, and explore the endless possibilities that await within this vibrant community.


Join in on the fun and follow me on Letterboxd, @charlesboswell!



Words Charles Boswell

Art Alexandra Lara


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